By Henry Klein III
During the holiday season, people put a lot of pressure on themselves when it comes to shopping for the right wine. I am here to tell you a few secrets that will ease your stress. First, it’s far more important to pair wine with people, not food. If you know a person’s favorite wine, buy it! Secondly, there are only a few wine and food combinations that don’t work so it’s hard to go wrong when selecting a wine. Thirdly, whether you are hosting the party or going to one, one of my most important rules is this: Be original! No matter what you decide to bring or serve, I think that it’s important to find some variety in your selection. Below are a few ideas to make your holidays less stressful and more exciting.
At cocktail parties where there is a vast array of food, both red and white wines can be served. If you are hosting the party, then you should have several bottles of each on hand. Buying wines by the case is offered at almost every wine store and can save you between 10-15 percent. For antipasto platters, a red wine will complement the taste of the different meats. Two to try are E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2000 Rhone, $10 and Catena Malbec 2000 Mendoza, $22. Hors d’oeuvres such as bacon wrapped scallops and crab cakes go well with white wines such as Paringa–Chardonnay-Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc 2004, $11 and Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio 2001 Venezia, $18.
If you celebrate Hanukah or are going to a Hanukah celebration, you should consider bringing a kosher wine. There are two types—non-mevushal and mevushal. Non-mevushal wines must be produced, handled and even served by Sabbath Observant Jews in order to be kosher. Because of this, I recommend bringing a mevushal wine when going to a Hanukah party. It goes through an extra step of pasteurization and therefore can be handled by non-Jews and still remain kosher. You can tell if a wine is mevushal by the back label. Some recommendations are Abarbanel Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, $15 and Dalton Reserve Chardonnay, $16.
If you are going to a house party and know that Italian cuisine is on the menu, bring a bottle of Chianti Classico (DaVinci Chianti Classico, $16) or a Pinot Grigio (Maso Canali Pinot Grigio, $17). Since Italian wines are as diverse as Italian cuisine, this is also a great opportunity to pick out a few eclectic Italian wines that will wow everyone. Try a sparkling wine made from the Prosecco grape from the Veneto such as Domenico de Bertiol Prosecco Brut, $15. Or, if you’re looking for a higher end wine that comes with a big, bold taste try Brunelli Amarone della Valpolicella 2001, $43.
Since a traditional ham or turkey feast offers a variety of flavors ranging from sweet potatoes to tangy cranberry sauce, your best bet is to choose red and white, allowing everyone to enjoy their favorite. Some of my favorite reds are Stags’ Leap Petite Syrah, $40 and Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 1999 Waipara, $38.
Of course, don’t hesitate to bring (or have on hand) champagne or sparkling wine at any holiday function. This is a classic that still gets used at every function and is perfect for a toast. Don’t be confused though—the only wine that can be called champagne is from the Northern Region of France and almost always guarantees an expensive price tag. All other wines must be called sparkling. One of the most famous Champagne houses is Moet and Chandon (Moet and Chandon Brut Imperial Rose, $50). An all-time sparkling wine favorite and one that I receive every year from my guests is Martini and Rossi Asti Spumante, $14.
I hope the season finds you healthy and happy and with a bottle of wine in hand.
Henry Klein III is owner of Cabernet Café, 1814 Western Avenue, Guilderland. For more information call 452.5670 or visit www.cabernetcafe.com.